Creating a Family Cohesive Environment for your Tot

While attending church, we have always gone to the building that allows children to attend with their parents, instead of opting for weekly childcare. When the church recently added a building for high schoolers to participate in a church service with their peers, that felt off to me.  Isn’t attending church a family event to do together, not separate?  Unless they are homeschooled, children are at daycare or school with peers, up to 5 days a week.  Why would a 6th day at church be an additional option or offering?  I’m definitely not the only one that feels this way, because I do see some small tots to high schoolers with their parents during the service.
 
Recently I was led to a very intriguing book titled, Hold on to your Kids by Gabor Mate’.  This book provides profound information on the reasons that children are most often choosing to bond to peer groups, rather than parents, as early as 8 years of age. The book also cites the detrimental outcomes of children’s confidence, emotional development and even vocabulary by having an allegiance to their peers.  The dramatic increase in peer bonding is a fairly recent occurrence in society.
 
To get a flavor of the in depth information in Gabor Mate’s book, listen to this eye opening talk on the basis of peer group orientation.  It is a topic typically brought up by parents who are disgruntled and exasperated, yet regretfully accept that their children avoid communication with them and only want to be with their friends.   The link below and his book give perspective on a behavior that is believed to be “normal” for children, but in reality it is not normal, nor is it optimal for child development.  
 

Fast Food Reading Enjoyment

ImageAre you a parent that is surprised by the language in children’s books?  When we go to the library or bookstore, my lil one wants me to read whatever she grabs off the shelf and I end up changing a lot of what is actually written.  Even though the book ultimately ends in “Happily Ever After”, many of the children’s fiction books are filled with expressions of lack, limiting beliefs, victim/villain, bullying, sarcasm, self-consciousness over appearance expressed, and more.  Even a subscription to Highlights, that was a gift,  has stories that make me cringe and are edited when read them to my tot.  I know I won’t be able to continue my real time editing techniques much longer. She will soon be reading the words, rather than reciting what I read to her.

When I took a homeschooling course at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential, they advocated putting together homemade books with stories of the child’s experiences.  They could include family events, family pet, a vacation experience or even a day at the park.  The books can be a short story that describes the photos showing the child having a great time at the pool, swimming and splashing with friends.  The homemade books can be tailored to your child’s age and interests. My daughter loves these personalized books more than any others.

Recently I found a great book at the library called Fast Food by Joost Elffers. It’s cute and colorful and is about different modes of transportation. What makes this book unique is that the photos of the transportation vehicles are all made out of fruit and vegetables.  It is very clever and may even inspire your child to have a stronger affinity towards fruit and vegetables.

Playing in the Rain

Living in Southern California, rain does not come by a lot like some other places such as Seattle and England.  When the rain comes, have you noticed the children getting really excited.  At least mine does.

This morning my son woke up and immediately started getting dressed to go outside.  Love the way he likes to experience the bit of chill in the air, splash in the puddles and see the water spread, and pick up worms and slugs and put them back in the dirt. This is part of creative play.

Earthroots Field School, a Non-Profit Organization, always has class rain or shine and they are outside in the woods for 5 hours! It certainly is an adventure to engage in the element of rain and chill for that length of time.

This raises an important discussion for parents.  We are concerned our little ones being out in the wet that they will catch cold.  Remember to always bring a change of clothes to allow spontaneous outdoor play in the rain.  The best investment you can make is purchase rain boots for your kids and a rain coat.

The main word of advice for parents, do not be afraid of your children going outside in the cold and rain to play and explore.  This is their time to experience and be curious what bugs come out in the rain and so forth.

Written by Tina Hiatt, Entrepreneur Mother and Marketing Director for Holistic Health & Fitness. http://www.HolisticHealthFitness.net.

Are your Children Experiencing Outdoor Play

In today’s world, children are playing indoors a heck of a lot more than they are outdoors.  What are these kids doing?  I am sure most of you have experienced a three year old who can navigate themselves through the computer better than some adults.  How about those computer games?  I know some children as young as two years who can beat adults at some of these games.  Then there is the TV, well I can say there are some educational programs, but we must be curious about this.  Does TV really have a long lasting affect on our children, good or bad?

To get children outdoors, a popular thing to do these days are playgroups.  I find mine on Meetup.com.  In addition to these playgroups, they are playing organized sports.  Have you noticed in your family’s lifestyle or other families that today’s kids have such a tight schedule at an early age that they are being shuffled from this playgroup to the next, and then shuffled to their organized sports team as early as the age of three years!  Life is so full and “busy” that the kids are so called “calmed down” with a movie, TV show or video game, not only at home but on the road with iPads or cell phones.  Wow, just writing it is making me exhausted.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “enough is enough and I just want to relax!” Here is the thing, your child is being robbed of their own identity, being robbed of a sense of independence and self, and most of all, being robbed of real socialization and learning.  Take it from me, I had to learn that the hard way.  We all do our very best to raise our children as best we know how and help our children be the best they can be.

There is another way.  Let’s stop pushing our children so hard, they really need time to explore to find out who they are in this world. We found the best remedy, outdoor play.  Allow them to get in the dirt and mud and let’s cease on nagging them not to get dirty.  If it is raining, hey, that is the most opportune time to send them outside for play.  Stay out of their way parents!  Allow them discover for themselves, it is vital for their health and stability.  They have only been on this planet for a short amount of time.

You are probably saying to yourself, this is all good and fine and my children are extraordinary, head of the class at age 5 and the sports star at age 6 and at age of 2 and 3 my child knows how to spell and add and nearly read!  Great! And here are some of the things that happen without a child stopping and relaxing and enjoying their natural outdoor environment.  Lose sense of self, social skills are not present, they have violent tendencies or aggressive, they have no access to creativity which helps brain function and health, physically they are not strong and dark circles appear under their eyes, hard going time sleep, loss of motivation and the list goes on. No kidding.

There is something about being outdoors, exploring, climbing, digging, playing in the mud and collecting sticks and other cool things, touching bugs and all the sorts that really has a bearing.  This gives the child a sensation of touch, which brings them into self and the present where they know their place.  It is a feeling of stability and owning their domain.  There is something to be said by molding a mug pie, which connects to their brain in a way that creativity and learning is enhanced.  Sitting and watching a computer screen, even educational, does nothing of the sort.  With outdoor play, the child understands what the natural environment feels like and is able to see the beauty of it then take it in on an intellectual level.  Ever see your child outside observing that worm or the little ants walking on the sidewalk?  Observation keeps them focused and grounded by learning in this environment without the toxic frequencies hitting them as the electronics do (Television, Cell Phone, iPads, tablets, computers).  The large benefit of outdoor play is that it clears their mind of the clutter our world puts in with advertisements, movies, plastic toys, etc. Being outdoors in nature, there is no one to impress and nowhere to get to.  It is about living in the moment and a huge opportunity for creative play and curiosity.

Learning is not only with your head but physical too? Have you ever thought about that? Growing up, the only time I actually got good grades if I was interested in the subject, where I got to experience it in real life or witness for myself. Homework and group projects assisting me in my learning as I went to public school.  Why settle for just classroom learning, let’s give your child a boost with outdoor play.  Children can pick up things quickly, academically and socially. Without this kind of play, it comes to a point that they are just now memorizing.  There were many people who we have talked to that insist that being raised playing outdoors, it is easier for them to learn in school.  Why is this? Just by being outside and touching trees, digging and finding bugs under rocks and amongst trees, children learn easier.  You may say, “my child is doing extraordinary in his/her learning in pre-school and or kindergarten.”  Let’s not dismiss your child’s unique abilities and the learning they do with you and in school at a young age.

Here is something for all parents to think about.

When it is the child’s free will, through outdoor learning and play, they tend to learn and master their education.  Need some more evidence?  The Tots Cafe has interviewed Jodi Levine, Founder of Earthroots, which is an outdoor education and learning for children.  These kids are outdoors all day long in the woods or the beaches. They get to play in mud/sand and with sticks and in streams and observe tide pools.  They are being educated about their natural environment and the instructors are giving them the gift of song, play and story.  It is a kind respectful education where there is no need for discipline, just guidance.

You may be wondering, that sounds nice but what are the differences between these nature children to the children who mostly play indoors? This I invite you to ask yourself.  There are many stories of parents and children a like that nature playing has made tremendous impact.

Personal Story. My 4-year old son and I experienced Earthroots Forest Kindergarten class.  Before we took the class, we were having difficulty with going to bed early (7:30am), as he was consistently going to bed at 9-10pm and getting up at 8-9am, which affected him in many ways than one.  Brings us to our experience at Earthroots. How it works is one parent or guardian must be present at all times. This was new to me being a city slicker and all.

The day consisted of children socializing, the parents socializing too, the kids playing wherever they felt the need and the parents socializing, the kids and parents together singing in a circle, snack time with organic foods for all of us and eating on our blankets, more signing, kids activities which were outdoor running games and a bit of hiking. Followed by an activity and then the best part was quite time. Quite time was to give us a rest and to allow nature a chance to come in and be with us.  That was so needed.  The day was so exhausting for me and all I really did is sit on a blanket, eat outdoors, do a small hike and went exploring with my son as we collected some amazing looking sticks. Okay, that says something about me, but what about my son? The next day and the day after that and so on, he has now been consistent on sleep, falling asleep no later than 8:00pm. Huge improvement! Sleep has now been regular, his actions are now calm instead of tantrums or outbursts, and he seems to be a lot gentler.  There is nothing like the experience of outdoor play and learning.

Stories may inspire you, but if you like to really see results with you and your children, experience the outdoors is the way to go.

There is so much evidence out there toward the benefit of outdoor play, we as parents need to know this and give every possible thing to our children so they grow up healthy, abundant and secure adults. Playing outdoors is one of the most important activities.  Give them this opportunity of playing out in nature.

Written by Tina Hiatt, Director of Holistic Health & Fitness.  http://www.HolisticHealthFitness.net

Sleep is Vital

There is nothing more important than them getting the correct amount of sleep. I am talking about the child’s sleep cycle. Yes they have a sleep cycle.  The correct sleep cycle is asleep by 7-7:30pm and must get 10-12 hours sleep. Hey, I did not make this up, it is a real evidence.  Ever notice your child acting up or yawning about 7-7:30pm?  Well, they are tired.  Their days seem a lifetime compared to our days which seem to whiz right on by.

Sleep is actually the one most important things you can ever do for your child, yourself and your family. It influences their brain development, determines how they function socially, it will shift their mood to not so tolerable, it dampens their vitality, and it affects their adrenals if they are sleep deprived or even getting their 10-12 hours but going to sleep past 8pm.

If you are having a hard time getting your child to sleep by 8pm you are not alone.  That has been my biggest challenge as a parent.

Here are a few things I had to do to get my child to bed at least by 8:00pm consistently and we are still working on it.
1. Change our family lifestyle: We are now home every night by 4:00pm.  I decline a lot of fun stuff I can be doing but my child’s sleep is most important and so is mine.
2. Get the house dark by 5:30 even though it is bright as it can be outside.  Getting the house dark, having an early dinner and quite time before we read has been very helpful to the bedtime process.

3. Get him in bed at 6:30pm.  This part is taking some time.  Some nights we get him in bed by 7:00 and no later.  So far the reading time starts at 6:30 and by 7-7:30 hits he is yawning and now resting. He is not consistently asleep by 8:00pm. This does not happen every night but that has a lot to do with the rhythm of our child’s day and that’s another blog.

4. Play the imagination game. Heard from the Waldorf school that telling stories and having them imagine is very healthy for their development and it also calms the child.  So the last story is something we play, “the imagination game.”  We turn off all the lights because reading time ended.  This is how it works. It consists of him closing his eyes and laying on his back.  It starts off something like this…”Imagine you are sitting on the nice cool green grass looking over a quite still lake and once in a while a fish will jump out of the water and go down into the water with a quite splash…”  It is a really calming and soothing type of imaging that has no action, low tones, and highly meditative.  It works well for our family and he is usually tired enough to go straight to sleep.

These have been what we have done for our family and what a difference in my child!  It is much more social and talkative to other kids.  He is vibrant and the bags under his eyes has ceased.  He get his full 10-11 hours of sleep per night and wakes up bright and early enough to have a hardy breakfast and take his time getting ready for school.  His playtime has been the most creative I have ever seen him and he has improved immensely in school.

Life is not always perfect but one thing you can always do for your tot is get them to bed when their cycle says so.  There will be exceptions but keep them far and few between, especially on a school night, the teachers will thank you.

Disney Dilemma

As parents we do our best to protect our tots from traumatic media, whether in print, in person or on the computer.  These days more parents are choosing to have no television in their home to be more productive, read, enjoy more time outside, and focus on what contributes to connecting as a family. Blip news glimpses are flashed on yahoo when going into email, so it is easy to stay somewhat “in the know”.
A recent source of incongruence has been the masses of parents that are excited expose their children to Disneyland and Disney movies.  Most any adult can clearly recall the common thread theme of most of the traditional movies…an orphaned child, whose parents are killed, then adopted by a cruel step family member or is completely on their own to fend for themselves.  Just think of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Saving Nemo….you get the picture. Watching these movies, in essence with the same message with different characters, can contribute to impact an impressionable child’s belief system and even cause fear of something similar happening to them or their parents.  One of my dear friends grown son’s confessed he was afraid most of childhood that he would become an orphan, because of the traumatic Disney movies he watched as a child.
Now if the main character is a girl, they have to be beautiful to be rescued by a prince charming in order to have happiness or live Happily Ever After.  These movies impact young girls. First they want to dress up like the princess and after watching different movies with the same theme several times, the “save yourself by marrying a Handsome Prince” message is successfully planted.   By the time these girls are young adolescents they could be subconsciously keeping an eye out for the Handsome Prince to ensure their life is happy or perhaps to off to run if life isn’t always smooth in the home.
Parents likely don’t want to share such messages with their Little One, but it cleverly happens through the Disney movies, books, costumes, and theme park.  The use of media, print and a live experience with the same characters results in very effective brainwashing.  Why are these types of dark trauma filled movies marketed to young children?  As for an amusement park to call itself “The Happiest Place on Earth” that is built on heavy tragedies within the famous stories, feels very contradictory.  As adults we all know that no person or thing is going to make us eternally happy. “Happily Ever After” resides in our hearts and our children benefit from knowing the truth.

The Mom Escape

Where do we find our escape from the craziness of motherhood? How do we not give all ourselves to our child where it becomes unhealthy for us? I am on a quest to find these answers.

I am a mother who owned her own business, moved to England, had a baby and moved back to the US and stayed home with my child. When I arrived back to the US, I had sold my business, had no family near me and my friends at that time were all single with no children. It was one lonely and hard path for me. What I did have was a beautiful baby boy, whom I focused my attention. Then my son starts growing up and not so needy, but I am still giving my all to him. I was about to go nuts…what happened to that woman on the go and in love with life? That was my question to myself and still my question.

Now my son is in Nursery School and I have the mornings to do what I need, I use this time to conduct business, write blogs, film and “trying” to get back into the swing of entrepreneurship again.

Being in the inquiry of what is missing, some solutions came up. One is my workouts. Usually a ritual of working out has been in my life and now has disappeared. As humans, a workout is important for vitality. Getting that blood flowing will do anyone some good.

Another thing I am missing are my friends. Just finding the space to go out and be with the “women” is a healthy outlet. I find it important to be with your friends, it brings a mental health and community. As humans, we must have community.

To start with just those two things can make the world of difference. On this path of finding the healthy medium of Motherhood and sense of self is a journey. If anyone has their own journey of finding self, I would love to interview you. Please share as other Mother’s experience do matter and we all can learn from each other.